Friday, August 8, 2014

12 Years a Slave - Movie Review

Watched this movie more so because I heard good reviews of it. It is based on a  memoir written in 1953 by Solomon Northup based on his experiences. A free man, and a musician living with his family in New York, Solomon Northup is drugged and kidnapped by two men who offer him work in Washington. When he comes to he is chained and soon he realises that his identity has been changed to one of Platt, a slave. With no one to believe him, Solomon becomes Platt and endures the horrors reserved for slaves in those days.

The white masters and their workmen had the law on their side and ill treated, beat, lynched, raped black slaves at their whims. It is almost perverse to know that you have that kind of a power over another human and to see the extent to which one can push it. So they do, the white masters, treating black slaves like cattle and nothing more. The scene where the slaves are sold is brilliantly shown. Northup tries to escape once but is betrayed by a white man he trusts, and the second time succeeds in getting information cross to his family in New York. The sheriff secures his release after twelve years of his life among the slaves, away from his family. Northup meets his family finally.

Apparently the real Northup tried to get the kidnappers to trial but they managed to escape. The movie is directed by Steve McQueen, a black director, whom I confused with the Steve McQueen, the actor. The movie won great acclaim, three Academy Awards - best picture, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actress. Worth a watch certainly as it shows what could be a conveniently forgotten part of our history. That perverse streak resides in us and it will only change form. Don't ever fool yourself into thinking the world is a better place.

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